NASA’s Orion spacecraft has successfully returned to Earth after a nearly 26-day mission around the Moon.
The Orion capsule splashed into the Pacific Ocean after re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, slowing its parachute descent.
This was a test without astronauts, but next time the spacecraft will perform a manned mission.
NASA is planning more complex missions with the Orion crew capsule.
Those missions could begin as late as 2024, including an attempt to land humans on the moon again in 2025 or 2026.
The successful recovery of the Orion capsule this time is exactly 50 years after the last human landing on the moon.
On December 11, 1972, the Apollo 17 astronauts completed the last human mission to the Moon.
NASA’s current moon landing program is called Artemis, which is the sister of Apollo in Greek mythology.
According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (Bill Nelson), the purpose of launching the moon landing program again is completely different now: “Because we are returning to the moon this time to learn to live, work, innovate and make, we can continue to enter the universe , for further exploration.” .
He also said, “Our plan is to prepare to go to Mars with humans in the late 2000s, and then even after that.”
NASA listed the Orion capsule’s return to Earth Sunday as its “first priority.”
The space capsule was very fast when it returned to Earth from the Moon, and the speed was as high as 40,000 kilometers per hour when it first entered the Earth’s atmosphere.
The capsule needs a strong heat shield to prevent the spacecraft from cracking as it enters the atmosphere, causing friction temperatures to reach nearly 3,000 degrees Celsius.
The protective layer at the bottom of Orion is a new design based on previous spacecraft, and NASA must determine that the new protective layer will work effectively before the spacecraft can begin its crewed flights.
The stunning sight of the capsule’s 11 parachutes deploying and inflating in sequence clearly shows that the heat shield has completed its working steps, although the final results are still awaiting examination by engineers.
After the capsule splashed into the ocean near Guadalupe Island, Mexico, the recovery team began collecting images to gather data for later analysis.
United States and Europe
This space mission is a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency.
The European Space Agency provides the propulsion module and service module for the launch of the Orion capsule to the Moon, orbit and return to Earth.
The European Space Agency’s propulsion module didn’t litter the crew module for recovery, though: It broke away about 20 minutes before the spacecraft re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, and was destroyed when it plunged toward Earth over the South Pacific Ocean.
In the future, the European Space Agency will continue to provide more service modules for future Orion spacecraft operations, ensuring the participation of European astronauts and American astronauts in future space projects.
The European Space Agency has delivered the first propulsion unit for the Artemis human space program to NASA. A third model for the Artemis mission to the moon is currently in advanced stages of assembly in Germany.
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